- India v England, 3rd ODI, Ranchi
India give Dhoni happy homecoming
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
MS Dhoni has not had too much to smile about in recent months, as his India side suffered unexpected home defeats in Test and ODI cricket, but he was able to pack away the defensive frown and wary gaze and enjoy the occasion in Ranchi, as India strolled to a seven-wicket victory in the first international match ever to be staged in his hometown.
Dhoni was even out in the middle to hit the winning runs and soak up the atmosphere as England, who appeared as eager as the crowd to give him a day to remember, slipped 2-1 down in the five-match series.
All of India's bowlers contributed in a concerted display, aided by a touch of early movement and a middle-order collapse against spin of familiar proportions. Dhoni also claimed three catches, including a diving take to dismiss England's top-scorer, Joe Root, and a sharp chance at the wicket off Ian Bell, as England were once again spooked by the ghosts of their recent past in 50-over cricket in India, mustering a paltry 155.
India's innings proved that the pitch was a good one - the curator had predicted a score of 350 for the side batting first but he was obviously banking on that side being India. Although Steven Finn cleaned up Ajinkya Rahane again, bowled through the gate for the second time in as many matches, and James Tredwell claimed his sixth and seventh wickets of the series, Virat Kohli made sure England were the only ones doing any chasing. Kohli twice hammered Tredwell over the ropes, to go with a further nine fours in an unbeaten 77, his return to form yet another fillip for his captain.
England's total was their second-lowest batting first against India (in full matches), as they subsided from an initially promising 68 for 1. Although there was an element of luck about the second breakthrough, as the sound of Kevin Pietersen's bat on pad seemed to deceive the umpire into awarding a caught behind, India did not owe their victory to fortune. The early dismissals of Alastair Cook, Pietersen and Bell left the middle order exposed and despite another promising display of character from Root, who put on 47 with Tim Bresnan, India were always in control.
The gods had already smiled on Dhoni at the toss, as he was given the option and chose to insert an England side still apparently winded from their emphatic, 127-run defeat in Kochi on Tuesday. Although the pitch looked hard and flat, there was a light covering of grass and just enough moisture to aid the bowlers, further justifying Dhoni's decision, made ostensibly in view of the possibility of evening dew making the ball difficult to grip. By the time the sun set, however, it was the match that had slipped out of England's hands.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed bowled impressive opening spells and although Cook christened the ground with its first international boundary, in the second over, England's captain was soon undone by swing. The fans at the newly constructed 39,000-capacity Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium had come to see only one inspirational leader among the two sides, and the cheer that went up when he moved across his stumps to be hit in front by a Shami delivery that curved back at him confirmed it was not Cook.
Pietersen is an England player capable of whipping up an Indian crowd but they were even more delighted by his downfall. Having added 44 in 41 balls with Bell, both batsmen fell in consecutive overs, Pietersen given out after again briefly threatening despite there being no apparent edge. Pietersen was visibly reluctant to drag himself away after fencing at a length ball from Ishant Sharma that rose sharply, the awkwardness of his stroke forcing the bat into the flap of his front pad. If there was doubt about that dismissal, there was none three balls later as Dhoni collected a scrape off the toe of Bell's bat while standing up to Bhuvneshwar.
England were never able to feel at home on the Ranchi surface and India's hold on the match was further strengthened as Morgan tamely lobbed the ball to short-third man. Morgan laboured for 10 off 30 balls in a manner reminiscent of his poor form in the UAE last year, playing and missing against the quicks before getting out attempting a premeditated reverse-swipe through point against R Ashwin. Ravindra Jadeja then burst one through a loose defensive shot from Craig Kieswetter and pinned Samit Patel lbw pushing half forward as three wickets fell for one run in nine balls to send the crowd into further raptures.
Root again dropped anchor, displaying familiar circumspection and timing a handful of boundaries. He and the returning Bresnan - the one change on either side - formed a Yorkshire coalition in an attempt to heave England towards a respectable total but a loose drive from Root gave Ishant his second wicket and the spinners quickly cleaned up the tail.
Before the start, there was already a palpable sense of anticipation in the ground at the return of Dhoni, India's captain and their standard-bearer during a testing recent run in ODI cricket. A light aircraft trailed a message in coloured smoke across the milky blue sky as Dhoni was interviewed at the toss. "It's a big moment for me but it's important to be focused," he said.
Dhoni also suggested that he may have played cricket with "at least 15,000" of the crowd, during his tennis-ball days as a youngster in Jharkhand, but his ten team-mates on the pitch were more than enough to rout a dismal England.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo